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Opening a shop calls for many skills and much research. One of my readers is interested in opening a small art/craft shop in the future. There are many possibilities for an art or craft shop and there are choices in niching down or expanding to meet multiple needs. The direction you choose must fit your lifestyle, budget, and areas of interest.
I’ve had many studios in my time as an artist. None of them have been galleries, but instead, cozy spaces for my work and my interests. I would not want to open a true gallery. I have found many artists to be difficult to work with, including myself. I don’t play well in the sand box at all. I imagine that being a true gallery director must be very self sacrificing.
It is important to figure out what you will sell and how you will attract buyers. You must find a good location for your shop. Life is not like the film Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will NOT come unless you work very hard and market endlessly to get them there. You will need to either have a large marketing budget or be in a dandy location. If you must choose one, go with the great location if you can. Be in a strip center with a good anchor store. A grocery store or popular restaurant are the best scenario. Once I was lucky to be next to Fresh Market and a few steps from a very popular restaurant. It was the best location I have ever had for a studio. I miss it to this day.
Working with a good partner can be helpful, at least in the beginning. Your partner must have the same working ethic that you have and be flexible. You can go out on your own at a future date but having a partner first will help you maintain the store and pay the bills.
I have found it helpful in some ways to have a studio inside another business. I have been inside an eclectic store for about 5 years. The good part is that there are always sales people on duty to sell for you, even when you are away. People will see my work while browsing the store. It is less than ideal. My landlord has boundary issues and I often find my things moved around. My visitors don’t have a true designated private area to visit with me. The location is not as good as our old place next to the grocery store. I am very limited in space and what I would like to do to entertain guests. I never feel like it is really mine alone.
I am always looking for a new space. Rent are really high in my town so I wait. I did find a small space but it is upstairs and that is never a good idea. People don’t like stairs and it becomes a barrier for people. They don’t want to get stuck upstairs if it is not an interesting place. Stay on the ground floor, street side if possible. Parking availability is crucial if you are in a busy urban area.
There is a danger in trying to have something for everyone in your shop. Stick with what you are good at making and have a consistent product if possible. I do some miniatures, art pins, and hand drawn note cards as well as a variety of prices and sizes for paintings. I don’t wander too far from that. You cannot please everyone so market to your niche.
If you are a crafter or artist, teach a couple of classes at the shop or bring in a teacher who will work on a split commission. I have always used a pay as you come system. If they come they pay. I don’t like getting involved with keeping up with who has paid and who wants a refund for not being there. You can put together kits for students to sell or have them bring their own supplies or provide supplies for a higher fee. Being lazy as I am, I have them bring their own supplies. Students bring in customers and they are loyal to you. I have a collectors club for some of my collectors and my students are allowed to be in the club for no fee. They do purchase paintings with that discount.
It will take a fair amount of experimenting to find the right product line for customers. Try things and see if they are popular and then add other products gradually. Before you open your shop, do some surveying with potential students and customers on what they like and brands they prefer.
I use the square for credit card purchases. Paypal makes one too and Amazon as well. Easy and inexpensive on your Ipad or Iphone. Keep up with your expenses and your sales for the tax man. Very important. This also helps with forecasting and inventory,etc.
You can bring people to your shop in several ways. I used to bring my dog Henry to my loft studio each Wednesday to receive his fans. He had many! He gave out paw print autographs and dog biscuits to people who had dogs. He was very popular and I marketed the heck out of Wednesdays. Many people love dogs as I do. I had book signings, conservationists, poets, and just about anyone I thought was interesting to come and speak at the studio. I had art lover salons, private parties for groups. I had card game groups, book club, musicians, and anything else I could think of to get people into the studio. Think outside of the normal box.
Running a retail studio is hard work. Be sure you have that commitment before you start and love every minute.
More musings for artists and collectors to come…
Today’s Recipe (This may be a Judy Dawson recipe. Thanks Judy.)
Amazing Coconut Pie
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose baking mix
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut (sweetened)
Place milk, sugar, baking mix, eggs, butter and vanilla in blender; cover. Blend on LOW speed for 3 minutes. pour into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with coconut.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until center of pie is set and top is golden brown. (It took me closer to 50-55 minutes). Serve warm or cool on a wire rack. Store leftover pie in refrigerator.